Custom Choppers G provides tips and tricks related to welding, metalwork, motorcycles and more.
Easy, Exciting, and Profitable Project Ideas
Working with metal is a rewarding experience because you get to create amazing things from your garage or small workshop. You can create all kinds of handy items or works of art from jewelry to large sheet metal projects.
If you want to make projects to sell, there is good news! In this terrible economy, making custom products like some of the ones I am going to suggest below can be sold for nice profit. Custom work is a good route to take since your projects will be much better quality, and that's what people pay for.
However, working with metal is also just a wonderful hobby. Most people who work with metal do so with the intention of building or fixing things for their home, farm, or shop—or they like to work on small projects like jewelry, hanging wall art, garden art, and much more.
In this article, we'll look at projects for:
- entry level
- intermediate level
- advanced level
- scrap or recycled material
Now let's go through my list of excellent and simple project ideas for you to consider.
Metalworking Projects for Beginners
Here are some great entry-level ideas for your first projects:
1. Garden Bench
One of my favorite projects is the construction of a metal or wood and metal garden bench. They are fairly easy to make, they look great, and people want to buy them.
You can make a metal table for your home or office, or you can make a welding table for your projects. There are some really good plans and designs with directions on how to build them (along with excellent metalwork advice) for end tables, decorative tables, a quality welding table and much more in the book Welding Complete.
3. Headache Rack
A headache rack is a metal 'barrier' that is installed behind a truck's cab or a tractor's cab which shields the driver and occupants in the cab from any material from crushing the window and injuring the occupants. These racks are often ornamental to add more aesthetics to the truck or tractor. They are really easy to make and very desirable in the trucking niche.
4. Plant Stand
A plant stand can be as simple as a steel rod with a simple hook attachment at the top (and a base), or it can be a very artistic multi-plant stand that requires lots of work. They are generally simple to make and homeowners buy them frequently, especially sturdy well-made ones.
5. Garden Stakes
I like garden stakes because they are super easy to make, and they can be fun to make as well. But what's even more fun is that people love them and you can sell them for three to four times your materials cost, depending on what you make.
6. Animal Garden Art
While we are discussing garden stakes—which are the most popular forms of garden art—the second most popular form of garden art is animals that you make from scrap metal (or you can buy materials from your local supplier).
You can make anything from a cute little pig to a horse or even something more exotic like a tiger or a giraffe. How about a unicorn?
7. Tool Rack
Every shop or homeowner needs to organize their tools and have easy access to them. A simple rack for your tools is a dead simple project. It could be a good first project for you, and the materials are very inexpensive.
8. Storage Rack
This is also a very handy project that can be very easy to complete; however, the materials cost will be higher than something like a tool rack. It's still a good first time project, and the materials aren't that expensive. It'll cost you more to buy one that you have to put together, and yours will be much better and last a lifetime.
9. Small Hanging Wall Art
Using sheet metal, you can trace a simple design and cut it out with a plasma torch, acetylene torch, sheers, or even a grinder. It depends on the shape. Start with a simple shape if you are just staring out—maybe a sun—and then affix a wall hanging fixture on the back or weld one on the top for hanging.
You can also create a basic coat rack, key rack, a shelf, or a mirror. These are all simple and desirable projects that people will buy.
10. Fire Pit or Outdoor Fireplace
There are all types of fire pit designs you can find online. Some are free; others you will pay for. You can also create your own design. But if you are new to metalwork it's best to follow a set of plans.
This fire pit project is ideal for easy because the video provides you with the plans and step-by-step directions, making it super easy for you to follow. The design of this fireplace is very good in my opinion. This would make a great first time project!
11. Barbecue Grill
A barbecue is always a winning project because it'll get used, and when you have people over you can show off your metalwork skills.
This is pretty much a must-do project and you don't need to be a master metalworker because there are many simple designs you can find online (or you can buy them).
You can also make a good one out of a 55-gallon drum (see below).
Intermediate Metalworking Projects
Here are some suggestions for moderately experienced metalworkers:
12. Coal or Wood Burning Stove (Hexagon)
Since we are discussing grills and barbecues (above), we must discuss the building of a coal or wood burning stove.
Building a wood burning or coal stove is not an easy project but it will be a very rewarding one. You'll want a set of plans for sure. A hexagonal stove is really gorgeous, and it does not take up much room. It's great for just about any room, garage, or shop.
13. Garden Trellis
A garden trellis is not difficult to make, so you may want to consider it as a first-time project. However, they are highly sought after by homeowners and business owners so it would be a good money making project if that is your thing. But if you are doing it as a hobby you should make one for your home because your wife or husband will be really impressed by your accomplishment—not to mention it will make your garden look amazing. Who knows, maybe your kids or friends will get married under it?
14. Decorative Gate
A well-made decorative gate can be a challenge for some because bending metal to make ornamental scrolls can be difficult if you don't know how to make a jig for your scrollwork. But you'll need to make a jig sooner or later, so why not start by making an ornamental gate for your home? Once you make a nice one, take a picture and post it on Facebook and see if you get any work as a result of it. You might be surprised by your results.
15. Sandbox Backhoe
Switching gears to something for the kids... a solid backhoe toy is something all the kids will love. So if you have more than one child, you may want to build two. You can create your own design or use an example for inspiration. This will be a fun project for you, and even more fun for your kids.
The easiest route to take when making a wheelbarrow is to build a wheelbarrow without any bends in the sheet metal. It requires minimal tools and resources. However, if you have the tools, then have at it. Otherwise a wheelbarrow makes a handy project and it can be quite simple.
17. Large Hanging Metal Wall Art
You can make larger wall hanging artwork that is as large or larger than your couch. This requires you to use sheet metal in most cases because it's easy to work with. For example, if you want to create a Western scene with a field and horses, you can easily sketch the scene on the sheet metal and then cut it out. If you want a brushed metal look, you can achieve this using your tools like a grinder.
You can use a plasma torch or an acetylene torch to cut the shapes or scenes, but this will require an artist's steady hand, so practice before you waste your sheet metal. Try making smaller projects first.
Some metalworkers have a Plasma Cam that cuts the exact scene out on the sheet metal. This is an ideal way to get artwork done fast and efficiently. You simply upload a picture and tell the machine to cut the picture out, and it's done in a few minutes or a few seconds, depending on how complicated it is.
18. Decorative Metal Projects (Scrollwork)
There are all kinds of projects you can create from metal scrollwork, and making the scrollwork is fun to do. In order to create scrolls, you need to build a simple jig on your welding or woodworking table, and then make the bends by hand. You can also buy jigs for around $80–200 or more, which will save you time.
Scrollwork projects include common projects like gates or fences. You can also turn ordinary projects like garden benches, tables, and chairs into beautiful works of art. But the most uncommon ones are the ones you come up with yourself.
Pictured here is a beautiful plant stand made by metal artist Gary Horky.
Advanced Metalworking Projects
Here's some ideas for much more experienced metalworkers:
There are all kinds of trailers you can build, but the best first build should be one that you yourself can use. Otherwise, it will just sit in your driveway—unless you want to sell it, of course. And there is a large market for well-made trailers.
Utility trailers are probably the most popular. Eight-foot or sixteen-foot should be the sizes you should build. However, you can also build motorcycle trailers, small utility trailers for ATVs, or even a bicycle trailer.
If you find that these sell well, then you'll want to build a jig for the design that sells so you can pop them out fast.
20. Motorcycle Frame
You would be surprised out how rewarding a good chopper frame can be to make. All you need is some welding skills, a jig for the frame, and frame plans, and you are off.
Be very careful with your welds because your life depends on how well you build your frame. I suggest building a hardtail frame first because it's easier to build than a softail. You may want to build the jig as well because buying a completed jig (which is not guaranteed to be well-made) will save you some money.
21. Motorcycle Gas Tank
You can buy all kinds of motorcycle gas tanks for your scooter, but making one is a very rewarding project. If you make a good one, you'll find that there is a market for it. And if you can airbrush, you will be selling them like hot cakes!
22. Hot Rod Chassis
If have the room, consider building a hot rod chassis. If you can build a motorcycle frame, you can build a hot rod chassis. You'll need a jig, plans, materials, tools, and room to make it. Just be prepared to build for a long time because not only will you build the chassis, you'll need to get the rod completed. But it can be done, even at home.
A go-kart is an ideal project that can be a good first step into building a motorcycle frame or hot rod chassis. Building a go-kart might be considered more of an intermediate project; however, it's not easy. But it is fun.
Scrap Metal and Recycled Metalworking Projects
There's tons of recyclable material to use in your projects. The ones listed here are easy to source and fairly simple to make. Post some ideas or your projects. I would love to see and read about them.
24. Bed Frames
What can you build from bed frames? I know of two guys who built a backyard gate from an old bed frame, and another guy built a potting stand and table.
25. Beer Keg
You can build a little grill out of a beer keg. It won't be pretty, but it will be cool—not to mention that you will be saving it from the landfill or dumped on the side of a road. What can you build out of an old beer keg?
How many horseshoes can you find this weekend? I bet you can find quite a few if you have a farm or a ranch nearby. I am also sure they would love to get rid of their old ones. If not, you can buy them on eBay or even Amazon.com.
There are many projects you can make from horseshoes. For example, you can make a really cool wine rack in about 20 minutes. Another idea is to make a coat rack or a hat rack.
How to Make Horseshoe Hooks: Take 3 horseshoes and a rasp and weld them together. It's really easy and a neat decoration for your home or office.
27. 55-Gallon Barrel
There's tons of these barrels around. You can make a nice barbecue or a smoker, or you can even make a compost barrel.
Safety Note: Make sure you choose a barrel that is not dangerous to work with, because if it contained toxic chemicals or liquids or the metal was treated, you will be in for trouble. Fortunately ,many are safe to work with, but just do your due diligence.
28. Railroad Spikes
You can find railroad spikes near railroads or in scrap yards, and you can buy them on eBay. You can look on Craigslist.org as well. With railroad spikes, you can make such things as knives, hatchets, or even a plant hanger. These projects require blacksmithing skills.
Recommended Books and Resources
- Killer Welding Projects Volume 1 is my top first or second favorite book on welding because not only does it have project blueprints, it also has step-by-step directions on what parts to get first, second, third, etc. and when to put each of them together to ultimately complete each project fairly easily.
- 101 Metalworking Projects: A Guide in Shopwork for Students in Secondary, Continuation, and Vocational School is an older book, but it's loaded with projects. And the cool thing about this book is that each project teaches something that helps you complete the next harder project, until you literally become able to build anything with metal.
Enjoy Your New Creations
Metalwork is truly a fun and rewarding hobby and profession. But the best part of building metalwork projects for fun or profit is that you don't necessarily need a lot of tools and experience—unless you are building things that peoples lives depend upon (like motorcycle or car frames, as described above). And you can create and shape metal with tools that are not very expensive or might be available through a friend or neighbor.
Once you start bending and welding, you'll be hooked. And soon you'll be thinking of what your next project or work of art will be. For example, do you see this tree house pictured here? How cool is that? Building something amazing and worthwhile is right in front of you. Get started and post your ideas or questions here (below).
This article covered larger projects that don't require tons of skill or artistic ability—although some are challenging, but you can tweak them as you see fit.